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Game #5 – Montreal Canadiens (2-0-2) @ Vancouver Canucks (2-3) – game recap

After winning the season opener in Edmonton, the Canucks then lost the next three games, including two straight to the Calgary Canucks, I mean Flames. Some troubling trends have emerged in the losing streak. First, keep an eye on the special teams tonight. Both units have struggled. The power play has yet to score a goal (the good news is five other teams, including Vegas and St. Louis have yet to score.) It won’t be easy facing Carey Price, who’s still one of the best goalies in the league, and an improved Habs defense. Also keep an eye on the type of penalties the Canucks take. On Monday, they let their frustration of their play in the 2nd period lead to a parade to the penalty box and that led to a pair of Flames PP markers. The Canucks need to do a better job of staying out of the box. Coach Travis Green put it best in yesterday’s media availability when he said that the Canucks couldn’t use lack of preseason games as an excuse for the early poor play. Sure, it would have been nice to have a few preseason games to work out the kinks, but guess what? NOBODY had preseason games to work out the kinks. The Canucks have to work out the kinks through the games and practices, when they can be fit in with the condensed scheduling. The Canucks made a change on defense for tonight’s game, taking Olli Joulevi out of the lineup in favor of Jalen Chatfield, who was paired with Alex Edler. Brayden Holtby got the start in goal. Jordie Benn was cleared to begin working out with the team again. He’ll probably need a practice or two before he’s ready for game action. The Canucks also reached an agreement with the Manitoba Moose to assign a few players (Tyler Graovac, Ashton Sautner and Arturs Silovs) there to reduce the quarantine period should they be needed. Sven Baertschi was assigned to the Utica Comets, pretty much ending any chance of him playing in a Canucks uniform again with his contract expiring at the end of the season. Vancouver is 2-6-2 in their last 10 games vs Montreal (1-4-0 in their last 5 meetings). The two teams split the season series with the road team winning both games and the Habs outscored the Canucks 6-5. Could the Canucks snap the three game losing streak? Here is tonight’s game recap.

Game Highlights:

  • The Canucks opened the scoring just over eleven minutes into the game off a quick snap shot from the slot by Bo Horvat past Habs goalie Carey Price for a PP marker
  • The Habs tied it 97 seconds into the second period after everyone got caught on the one side of the ice, leaving Tyler Toffoli with ample time and space to pick the far corner on Canucks goalie Brayden Holtby
  • Just until three minutes later, Tyler Motte deftly used Travis Hamonic as a decoy on a 2-on-1 break to freeze Price and snap it through the Habs goalie
  • Two minutes later, Toffoli tipped one past Holtby for a PP marker after Hamonic made a poor decision to chase after a retribution hit
  • Just under 6 minutes later, Brock Boeser redirected a point shot past Price for a PP marker
  • Just over 5 minutes later, Brendan Gallagher was awarded for driving hard to the net as he was able to tip a centering feed by Holtby
  • The Canucks retook the lead just under three and a half minutes into the 3rd period as Horvat finished off a pretty tic-tac-goal play for a PP marker
  • Just under seven minutes later, Jasperi Kotkaniemi found a loose puck and snapped it home blocker side on Holtby
  • Just over six minutes later, Toffoli completed the hat trick tipping home a Jeff Petry point shot
  • Thirty-two Seconds later, Boeser cracked a one-timer through traffic to tie the game again
  • Horvat got the GWG in the shootout. JT Miller and Nick Suzuki also scored in the shootout. Toffoli nearly extended the shootout a second time, striking one off the iron
  • Brayden Holtby stopped 34/40 shots, including 3/4 in the shootout.
  • Final score: Canucks 6 Canadiens 5 (shootout win)

My Take:

  • The Canucks are a fragile bunch to be sure. Case in point, tonight, they blew four one goal leads and nearly allowed another buzzer beater to end the 2nd period (Holtby was able to get a pad on the quick shot). What’s really encouraging about tonight was the ability of the Canucks to fight through adversity in more than one sense. They lost no less than three players to injury (Antoine Roussel, Alex Edler and Travis Hamonic all didn’t make it through the game). The Canucks also could have folded at any point after blowing leads and when the Habs got their first lead late, but they kept at it and retook the lead and quickly tied the game when the Habs went ahead. In OT, the Canucks had their chances to end it, but kept missing the net. Holtby kept the Canucks alive in the extra period with 6 big stops
  • Speaking of Holtby, one might look at the fact that he allowed 5 goals and say he had a bad night. Then you consider how the goals were scored and you realize Holtby was the least of the problems tonight. First goal, the Canucks were all crowded around the benches and when the puck squirted loose, it went right to a wide-open Toffoli who made no mistake. Second goal, Hamonic decided to vacate his position to get a revenge hit, leaving just Nate Schmidt to defend three Habs down low. Third goal, bad positioning. Fourth goal, Kotkaniemi wasn’t tied up by a defender. Fifth goal, beautiful tip by Toffoli. Sure, Holtby could probably do with some quality practice time with Ian Clark, but the score could have been worse if not for him
  • The taxi squad could see some action tomorrow night. With at least three Canucks players potentially out for tomorrow, it’s almost certain lineup changes will be needed. Olli Joulevi should draw back in the lineup, and one of Guillaume Brisebois, Brogan Rafferty and Jack Rathbone could also draw in if both Hamonic and Edler can’t go tomorrow. The Canucks would likely turn to Brisebois, since he has previous NHL experience. Given the role Antoine Roussel played (PK, 3rd line), it’s likely Loui Eriksson would take his place tomorrow night. Hopefully none of the three injuries are too serious.
  • One positive from tonight was the power play, which struck three times tonight. They did a much better job moving the puck and getting quick shots off. In the postgame presser, Travis Green lauded Brock Boeser for his improvement in the down-low position in the PP. Hopefully the success tonight continues tomorrow
  • The penalty killing unit still needs work though. The team was much more disciplined tonight, taking just the one penalty. Unfortunately, the Habs scored with the lone man advantage. Hamonic, as mentioned above, was at fault on this one. He went out of position to throw a hit and left Schmidt to defend against three players. Nick Suzuki was able to slide the puck under a sprawling Schmidt for an easy tap-in by Toffoli.
  • The Canucks won 46% of the draws, led by Jake Virtanen and Brandon Sutter, who both won every draw they took. Elias Pettersson (67% success rate) and Bo Horvat (57% success rate) also had good nights in the faceoff circle
  • The Canucks banged out 34 hits, led by Tyler Motte, who had 9 hits
  • The Canucks blocked 12 shots, led by Brandon Sutter and Nate Schmidt, who both blocked a pair of shots each
  • Up next, the Canucks and Habs faceoff again in the second of a three-game mini series. Expect the backup goalies to play. Also expect morning skates to be optional. Here’s hoping one of the Canucks injured tonight can go tomorrow
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